There is a brief moment in my musical-tastes-timeline which deserves a special mention, perhaps particularly because it was so short-lived. It was the very early eighties and a whole new crop of UK bands had released songs that just didn’t fit neatly into an existing genre. Even with hindsight I can’t think of a perfect name for it – it wasn’t punk, nor goth, nor rock, nor pop. Being generally referred to as ‘Post-punk’ is ok, but sounds a bit too broad. And I suppose ‘Indie’ would be an understandable tag, but that rather blandly convenient term brings to mind a slightly later upsurge of bands. So I’ll share with you a name which sums up my listening habits of the time: ‘Peel bands’. It was John Peel who brought these sounds into my bedroom through his late night radio show and for that reason they’ll always be inextricably linked.
Perhaps one of the first things to draw my attention to these Peel bands was their weird and wonderful names. They gave no indication as to how they might sound, so when John announced at the beginning of his show, “Tonight we have a session from Crispy Ambulance and records by Ski Patrol and A Certain Ratio..." my curiosity was already stirred.
At the start of that decade I was an art student, feeling happily outside of the norm, with not too many cares in the world, dressing in clothes from charity shops and growing out my once-spiked hair to back-comb it instead. I bought my singles from places like Small Wonder, who, as well as being a label for acts like Patrik Fitzgerald (and releasing the first Cure single), had a record shop in Walthamstow. I never went there but it operated a great little mail order service. You could phone up and speak to founder Pete Stennet himself to place your order and send your stamped addressed envelope off for the latest list. It’s funny how little random snippets linger in my memory for no apparent reason; I recall sitting on our brown-carpeted stairs with the curly cord of the big-dialled cream telephone stretching round the doorway from the kitchen when I rang up excitedly to reserve an obscure EP by the Tunes. A Saturday lunchtime I think. Rhubarb crumble in the oven.
Before selfies were selfies
I may sound like an old fart but really I’m quite glad I’m of a certain vintage when I think back to those days. I get such a warm feeling. My world was so small in so many ways, my life’s limits bound by the cost of a train ticket or bus fare, late night curfews set by parents and only three TV channels, all of which turned into mute, black screens by bedtime. But maybe all that just made me appreciate even more the exotic pleasures to be had from listening to the one and only John Peel.
Here for your exotic listening pleasure too, I bring you a small, random selection:
Wah! Heat: Seven Minutes To Midnight
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(links may have expired...)